Golden Girl Jennifer Dawson – World Class Athlete, Professional Pickleball And Tennis Champion

As pickleball continues to grow and an increasing number of tennis players transition to the sport of pickleball, few have achieved the level of success in both pickleball and tennis as Jennifer Dawson. An amazing athlete with incredible power and grace on and off the courts, Jennifer continues to earn major titles in tennis and pickleball, now as a Senior Pro in both sports.

In 2017, Jennifer made pickleball history as the first ever Triple Crown winner at the Minto US OPEN Pickleball Championships, winning gold in Senior Pro Singles, Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles. At the 2018 Minto US OPEN, she won gold in Women’s Senior Pro Doubles.

Jennifer Dawson

Jennifer’s titles at the USAPA Nationals Championships are equally as impressive, starting in 2015 with silver in Women’s Doubles 19+, then in 2016 gold in Women’s Doubles 35+, followed by two silver medals in 2017 in Women’s Senior Open Doubles and Singles. At the most recent 2018 USAPA National Pickleball Championships, Jennifer again won silver in Women’s Senior Open Singles, and another gold in Women’s Senior Open Doubles. She has also won several gold medals at the Tournament of Champions in both Senior Pro Doubles and Singles.

Jennifer’s pickleball achievements alone are beyond impressive. What makes her accomplishments even more remarkable is that she achieves such success while also competing and winning at an elite level in tennis. Jennifer recently spoke with Pickleball Central founder Anna Copley about her pickleball career, tennis background and highlights, and why she favors ProKennex paddles. Watch the interview with Jennifer here.

Jennifer Dawson Video Interview

Jennifer started playing tennis at age seven, and went on to play Division I collegiate tennis at USD. Then Jennifer Larking, she claimed the #1 Singles rank at USD in 1986, 1987 and 1988. After college, Jennifer played on the pro tennis tour for several years, racking up an impressive record. After taking some time off to raise a family she later returned to national and international competitive tennis, earning the number one USTA ranking in women’s 35, 40 and 45 age groups.

Currently, Jennifer plays at the highest level on the USTA Senior International Tennis Team, competing in dozens of tennis tournaments annually. On May 18, 2019 at the USTA National Women’s Senior Hard Court Tennis Championships in La Jolla, where the best players across the country compete for the coveted USTA Gold Balls awarded to the top national champions, she won not just one but two gold balls. The only double gold winner of the week, Jennifer won gold in both Singles and Doubles 50+ division.

Jennifer Dawson USTA team.jpeg

Jennifer and her husband Steve Dawson own and operate the Bobby Riggs Racket & Paddle Center in Encinitas, CA, where they are both tennis and pickleball pros. The BOOST Pickleball Training Camps at Bobby Riggs Center provide pickleball players an opportunity to train with and learn from some of the finest players in the world – Steve, Jennifer, their son Callan (an accomplished 5.0 pickleball player) and several world class visiting guest pros such as Simone Jardim, Irina Tereschenko, Corrine Carr and Cammy MacGregor.

Athletes like the Dawsons are understandably particular about the equipment they use. Steve turned to ProKennex years ago when he was suffering from tennis elbow. So impressed with the ProKennex Kinetic Energy system for how well it improved his injury symptoms in tennis, Steve began working with ProKennex two years ago to develop pickleball paddles using the same technology.

The first ProKennex pickleball paddle, the Kinetic Pro Speed, was introduced at the 2018 US OPEN Pickleball Championships and immediately won a staggering collection of medals (with a little help from Steve and Jennifer). The newest ProKennex paddle, the Kinetic Ovation Speed, with an innovative oval shape and unparalleled sweet spot, was just introduced at the 2019 Minto US OPEN, winning more medals for both of the Dawsons.

Thanks to the ProKennex Kinetic Energy vibration dampening technology, thousands of pickleball players are benefiting from the reduction or elimination of previous elbow, arm and wrist pain. Learn more about ProKennex pickleball paddles and gear here.

Meet The Pros – Barry Waddell

Meet The Pros – Barry Waddell

Barry Waddel and Dave Weinbach

Dave Weinbach and Barry Waddell – Gold, 2019 US OPEN

From his first game in flip flops to gold in the US OPEN, Barry Waddell has shown us what a professional tennis turned pickleball star can do. I think we could all learn a lot from him, on and off the court. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2019 US Open, Men’s Senior Pro Doubles with Dave Weinbach – Gold
2018 Texas Open, Senior Men’s Open Doubles with Steve Kennedy – Gold

2018 Atlanta Open, Men’s Senior Doubles Open Pro with Scott Moore – Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

The Paddletek Tempest (Original). I love the soft touch and I can generate my own power. I use a bit lighter paddle (7.8 oz) and find it very maneuverable when getting into fights at the net. LOL.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I grew up in Miami, Florida playing football and baseball in the youth programs until the age of 13, when I discovered my true love of tennis. Within two years I was ranked in the top 5 in the state of Florida and top 50 in the nation. At 18, I won the Florida State High School Championships at the number one singles position earning many college scholarships. Attending the University of Illinois, I was ranked number one as a freshman and reached the finals of the Big Ten Championships. I then played professionally on the satellite tour in Europe and the United States.

After a brief professional tennis career, I returned to Florida to become the Director of Tennis at Casa Ybel on Sanibel Island. Continuing to play tennis tournaments, I was ranked number one in Florida in the Men’s 25 and Men’s 30 division and number two in the men’s open division. At the age of 47 and after many years away from playing competitive tennis, I found my new love of pickleball by chance one day when I was working out at the local recreation center.

I heard some noise coming from the indoor basketball courts and went inside. I saw people playing this strange game with a neon green ball (Jugs) and small paddle. Sitting on the bleachers, someone asked me if I wanted to play, but I was in flip flops and didn’t have a paddle. “No problem,” he said, “Here’s a paddle and flip flops will work fine.” From that moment on I was hooked. I started recreational play indoors for the first 8 years and then began outdoor tournament play in 2017.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I hesitated going outdoors for many years partly because my knees were bothering me and also because I didn’t think the game was going to grow into the sport that it has become. Boy am I glad that I got that wrong! The first year of playing outdoors, I was literally pulling my hair out because the game was so different from indoors, playing on wood floors with the soft Jugs ball. It was almost like two different games, but I stuck with it. Now after 2 1/2 years, I enjoy playing outdoors very much because of the unique challenges associated with outdoor play. Most tournaments are outdoors, but occasionally, because of weather, they move inside where I am VERY comfortable. ; )

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like singles and doubles but have decided because I don’t have too much time to practice it doesn’t make sense for me to compete. Singles is great for getting in shape and “skinny singles” is also great for doubles training!

Team Paddletek buddies, Barry Waddel and Stephanie Shouse Lane

Team Paddletek buddies, Barry Waddell and Stephanie Shouse Lane

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

The US OPEN is my favorite venue because of the open air venue and the ability to watch all the matches in close proximity. The Championship Court is also an incredible experience with an intimate and electrifying atmosphere.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I personally don’t believe that there is a secret sauce, although there is no substitute for good technique. Tennis players have an advantage in this category because of the many similarities to pickleball, but that doesn’t mean that other sports don’t contribute. Ping pong, racquetball, squash, platform tennis and badminton are all sports that have similar benefits to pickleball. My advice or tip would be to take lessons from a tennis turned pickleball player or pickleball players that have learned good technique and can clearly articulate those instructions. There is also no substitute for hard work and many hours of practice.

What is your day job?

Full time realtor with John R Wood in Lee County, Florida.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I try to play at least 3 or 4 times a week.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

I am an IPTPA Certified Teaching Professional and have been teaching pickleball and tennis for over 40 years. I would like to share my experience with others and introduce as many people as possible to the incredible sport of pickleball.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

Pickleball is a very unique sport which connects many different demographics and cultures. The younger players are starting to enter the game, which should only increase the exposure and bring the game to the next level. You can literally learn to play pickleball in a couple of months compared to tennis which takes a couple of years to achieve a similar status. Also you do not need to be Roger Federer to play the sport, as many different shapes and sizes compete well in this arena. I have a disability with my neck being organically fused, but I do not let it stop me from going out and playing the greatest game on earth!

Meet The Pros – Kaitlyn Christian

Meet The Pros – Kaitlin Christian

Kaitlyn Christian

Kaitlyn Christian, USAPA Margaritaville Nationals

Kaitlyn Christian is a tennis pro who was the body double for Emma Stone while she played Billie Jean King in the Battle of the Sexes film. Kaitlyn has recently added pickleball to her year-long competitive itinerary and is on Team Selkirk. Look out, pickleball pros, she is in it to win it! Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2018 USAPA Margaritaville Nationals Women’s Open Singles – Bronze 
2018 Engage Golden State Championships – Women’s Pro Doubles with Christine McGrath – Bronze
2018 Minto US OPEN Women’s Doubles Age 19+ with Kim Jagd – Silver
Women’s PRO Doubles with Maggie Remynse – Bronze
Women’s PRO Singles – Bronze
2018 The Lakes Spring Fling, Women’s Singles – Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

I use the Invikta paddle by Selkirk. It provides me with the right amount of pop on my drives. I’m a power player and love the way the paddle feels on power shots.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

My dad introduced me to the sport four years ago and ever since then it’s been our favorite hobby to play together. It’s a great competitive outlet since we both love making bets with each other and it is very similar to tennis, so it was easy to pick up.

 

What is your preference “playing indoors or outdoors?

I have never played indoor pickleball but I love all the elements that playing outside offers and think that playing outside would not be rivaled by playing indoors although I’d love to try it. There’s nothing like having to fight through the adversity of windy conditions or warmer ones where the ball is flying.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Currently, because I don’t get to play as often as I would like, I enjoy singles better. Singles is very similar to tennis in terms of game and strategy and your drops don’t have to be as perfect as they do in the doubles game. Singles is also much more physical and makes you work a little harder and I enjoy that challenge. However, I think that when the time comes that I get to play as much pickleball as I’d like, doubles might become my favorite. There is definitely an art to playing great doubles that is also similar to tennis and chess. You need to try and develop a plan, to strategize shots in advance and try to open up parts of the courts so that others are exposed, until you can capitalize and get that great smash shot.

Kaitlyn Christian

2018 USAPA Margaritaville Nationals – Kaitlin Christian

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

Playing Nationals at the beautiful venue of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden was my favorite place I’ve ever played. Not only was it very special to me as a tennis player, playing at such a prestigious venue where they hold one of the best tennis events in the world and where I live just a few miles away, but also for what it stands for in the pickleball world and how it is going to promote the growth of the game. There’s nothing like playing in your backyard with such nice weather and such great competitors and friends.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

My secret sauce currently is power. Having a tennis background definitely gives me the long strokes I need in pickleball to have successful drives and passing shots in this sport.

What is your day job?

I am currently a professional tennis player. I travel the world for about 10 months a year playing tournaments. I am currently ranked 53 in the world in doubles and hope to improve on that significantly this year.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Just as in tennis, my biggest “ritual” is getting PLENTY of sleep. My normal bedtime is 9 pm and sometimes before match days I go to bed even earlier around 8 pm. I can’t get enough of it!

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

My current goal in pickleball is to just enjoy it and to use it as cross training for tennis. Unfortunately, I don’t get to play enough to be able to compete in many events. But in the future I will and I’m really looking forward to that.

Meet The Pros – Terry Brine

Meet The Pros – Terry Brine

Barrie Hill and Terry Brine - Canadian GOLD

Barrie Hill and Terry Brine – Canadian GOLD

Terry Brine enjoys competing with partners who are as committed to winning as he is. BRAVO! We love Canadian tennis players who convert (get addicted) to pickleball. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2019 Duel in the Desert, Men’s 5.0 Doubles (65+) with Barrie Hill – Gold
2019 Pebble Creek Men’s Doubles 5.0 (65+) with Scott Stevenson – Gold
2018 Margaritaville USAPA Nationals – Men’s Doubles (65+) with Barrie Hill – Silver 
2018 SPA Monster Smash Men’s 5.0 Doubles (65+) with Barrie Hill  – Gold
2018 Pickleball Canada Men’s Doubles, Senior Open (50+) with Scott Stevenson – Bronze
2017 USAPA Nationals, Men’s Doubles 5.0 (60+) with Scott Stevenson – Bronze
2017 Pickleball Canada Men’s Doubles Senior Open (50+) with Scott Stevenson – Bronze
2017 International Indoor Pickleball Championships – Men’s Doubles (60+) – Silver

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the Selkirk Invikta. The Invikta is a good combination of power and touch. Selkirk sponsors me on their Selkirk Amped Team.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

An older friend, Andy Mezie, was entered in the BC Senior Games but didn’t have a partner, so Andy asked me to play with him. Green out of the gate, we won gold. I do have a tennis background which contributed to the quick transition to pickleball. I immediately got addicted to the game.

Do you like singles or doubles better? 

Doubles.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

Indian Wells is now my favorite place to play. They really did a wonderful job on resurfacing existing courts and creating new courts for pickleball. They have a contract for the USAPA Nationals for the next 4 years.

Indian Wells courts

Indian Wells, CA pickleball courts

What is your day job?

I am retired from the retail shoe business.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I play 5 days a week.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

No rituals. I just try to get a very good warm up to make sure my legs are ready. The first match of the day is always the toughest.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

To win gold at the next USAPA Nationals. I will be in the 70+ category, so feel like I have a very good chance.

Buzz Summers

Ron Schmeck and Buzz Summers

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

I feel lucky to be able to play, to be focused on a sport that everyone can play. I am competitive by nature and I believe my partner needs to be as serious as I am. It helps to be competitive. I enjoy competing with partners who are serious about the game and are in it to win it. One of my favorites, Buzz Summers, a tennis coach, is 82-83 years old and plays like he is 40.

Meet The Pros – Glenn Lucey

Meet The Pros – Glenn Lucey

Glenn Lucey Bronze

Glenn Lucey Bronze Medal, 2018 USAPA Margaritaville Nationals

Glenn Lucey is another un-suspecting tennis convert. Be sure to check his posts on the Pickleball Forum. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

Well, my biggest accomplishment was the recent bronze in the Senior Men’s Open Singles at Nationals where I beat 3 out of 6 top senior singles players. In addition, I’ve gotten medals in about 10 senior open/pro events in men’s doubles and mixed doubles and singles in the year and a half I’ve been playing tournaments, including:

2019 The Lakes Spring Fling, Men’s Singles Skill – Silver
2018 USAPA Margaritaville Nationals, Men’s Senior Open Singles – Bronze
2018 SoCal Summer Classic, Mixed Doubles with Jill Prolman, Bronze
2018 Brigham City Memorial Tournament, Men’s Doubles with Larry Moon – Gold
Men’s Singles Senior Pro – Bronze
2018 Grand Canyon State Games, Men’s Senior Pro Doubles with Jay Rippel – Bronze
2017 SoCal Summer Classic, Men’s Senior Pro Doubles with Mike Gates – Silver

2017 PickleballZone Bend PNT, Men’s Singles Senior Pro – Bronze
2017 Brigham City Memorial Tournament, Men’s Doubles PPF Pro Senior with Joe Frasca – Bronze

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with a ZZT Sports EVO 1, which is no longer made. I haven’t found a paddle that I like anywhere near as much. I also add lead tape, so my current paddle weighs 10.5 oz, though it used to be 12!

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I was trying to get back into tennis and was referred to a local pastor who had a pickleball court in his backyard and was the best player in the area at the time. I thought I was meeting him for tennis. Have hardly played tennis since.

What is your preference: playing indoors or outdoors?

I hate playing indoors and am lucky enough to live in California where I can play outdoors year-round.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Doubles. I have a love/hate relationship with singles and mainly play it because I’m good at it.

Glenn Lucey with Yvonne Ting, 2018 USAPA Margaritaville Nationals

Glenn Lucey with Jill Prolman, 2018 SoCal Summer Classic

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

Probably my home courts in Concord, California because it’s where I play 90% of the time. Fourteen courts so no waiting, and they’re sloped so they dry quickly after it rains!

City of Concord CA pickleball courts

City of Concord CA pickleball courts

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

Hit deep serves and deep returns. Drill your 3rd shot drops and dinks and no man’s land play until you’re as good as Kyle Yates!

What is your day job?

I used to teach school but I was able to retire at around 40 due to luckily having bought a couple duplexes at the right time.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

Not as many as I’d like, and I play a fair amount, but around 4 times a week/15 hours.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I actually still get nervous, especially before singles, but no lucky rituals or I would have more gold medals!

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

I know it’s cliche, but to become the best player I can be and perform to my potential in tournaments.

Anything else you would like to share about your pickleball experience?

I think this is a game where hard work, drilling, learning something new and figuring out the nuances of this game every day CAN take you to a high level. If you haven’t been, come to a big tournament where the best players in the world are playing and watch it live. And if I’m there, please find me and introduce yourself. I’d love to meet you!

Meet the Pros – Lenny Chimino

Meet The Pros – Lenny Chimino

Cynthia Tietze January 15, 2018 · Congratulations to CarlTietze & Michael Cox for battling into the dark and taking home the SILVER🥈MD 5.0 65-69 at the Southwest Regional, way to go all you guys! Gold to Seymour Rifkind & Lenny Chimino, and Bronze to Mark Freidenberg & Al Hager

MD 5.0 65-69 at the 2018 Southwest Regional –  Al Hager & Mark Freidenberg – Bronze, , Lenny Chimino & Seymour Rifkind – Gold and Carl Tietze & Michael Cox – Silver

Lenny Chimino is an Illinois-to-Arizona snowbird who sometimes can’t convince folks back home that pickleball is a sport. He’s a retired teacher and coach, so that makes him a subject matter expert on what a sport is in my eyes. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2018 USAPA Nationals MD 65-69 5.0 Gold with Ted Meyer
2017 USAPA Nationals MD 65-69 5.0 Gold with Ted Meyer
2016 USAPA Nationals MD 65-69 5.0 Gold with Ted Meyer
2016 USAPA Nationals MX 65-69 5.0 Bronze with Sally Dobson
2015 USAPA Nationals MD 65-69 5.0 Silver with John Grasso
2014 USAPA Nationals MD 60-64 5.0 Silver with John Grasso
2013 USAPA Nationals MD 60-64 5.0 Gold with John Grasso
2012 USAPA Nationals MD 60-64 5.0 Silver with John Grasso
2011 USAPA Nationals MD 55-50 4.5 Silver with Mike Rains
2018 SW Regional MD 65-69 5.0 Gold with Seymour Rifkind
2018 SW Regional MX 65-69 5.0 Gold with Carolyn Bagley
2016 Huntsman MD 65-69 5.0 Gold with Ted Meyer

Head Radical Pro

What paddle do you play with and why?

This past year I played with the Head Radical Pro and Radical Tour paddles. I like the grip, touch, control and power of these Head paddles.

Head Radical Tour

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I was asked to come play pickleball while on a hike in Sabino Canyon, Arizona. I learned more about the game from John Grasso and Tony Calendrillo and watched tournament play to learn to compete. I also spoke with Pat Kane and Chili.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I like playing outdoors in the sun, fresh air and elements.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I prefer doubles. I like the strategy, teamwork and dink play. I also prefer to play tournaments with different players during the season.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I don’t really have a favorite place. I love tournament play as well as any place there is good play, good fun or learning opportunities.

Lenny Chimino Casa Grande

Juli Goft, left (hand), Estelle Dechaine, Rob Barrett and Lenny Chimino play a game of pickleball at Mission Royale. (photo credit Oscar Perez/ Casa Grande Dispatch, Feb 23, 2016)

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players? 

Not really. I try to “Keep it Simple.” So my advice? Keep the ball in play. Play soft and be patient. Be a positive encouraging partner.

What is your day job?

I’ve been retired since 2005. I was a high school teacher, coach and administrator over my 31 years in public education.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I try to play 3 times a week, probably 10-12 hours. I also enjoy golf and biking.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I used to be superstitious when coaching basketball, but not with pickleball or tournament play.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

My goal is to play as long as physically possible and as long as my skills allow me to be competitive.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

Enjoy the game. Always show good sportsmanship on and off the court as a partner and opponent.

 

Meet The Pros – Steve Deakin

Meet The Pros – Steve Deakin

Steve Deakin Margaritaville

Steve Deakin at 2018 USAPA Nationals, Indian Wells

When I first reached out to Steve, I thought he was a young up-and-coming pro. Hey, his track record now speaks for itself! He is a bona fide PROfessional. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

These would be my most memorable results in the limited time I have been competing:

2019 International Indoor in Centralia – Gold in the Men’s Doubles.
2018 US Nationals Indian Wells, Silver in 35+ 5.0, Men’s Doubles and 5th/6th in the Men’s Doubles Open/Pro division.
2018 Canadian Indoor Championships Chilliwack, Men’s Doubles Open – Silver and Mixed Doubles Open – Silver
2018 Kamloops, Open Men’s Doubles Open – Gold and Mixed Doubles Open – Silver
2018 Alberta Provincial Championships Doubles Gold Men’s and Mixed Doubles Open
2018 Pacific NW Regionals in Bend 5.0 Bronze in both Men’s Doubles 19+ and Mixed Doubles 35+
2018 Grip and Rip Doubles – Gold Men’s and Mixed Doubles Open
2018 Pickle Barrel Classic – Silver Men’s Doubles 5.0 and Gold Mixed Doubles 5.0

Steve Deakin/Rick Witskin Gold

2019 Intl Indoor Pickleball Tournament: Tyson McGuffin/Morgan Evans-Bronze, Steve Deakin/Rick Witskin – Gold, Erik Lange – Bronze

I would like to thank all my partners to date who have been a part of my journey the past 2 years. Mike “The Ninja” Yee, Tim MacVinnie, Mike “The Jockey” Kerr, Darren Tillson, Marco Jankowiak, Barry Mah, Nick Williams, Rick “Ripskin” Witsken, Brenda Martel, Ronith Cogswell, and Irene Mah.

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the Selkirk Amped Invikta. It is by far the best paddle I have played with to date. I enjoy the extra length that gives more reach along with the added power and touch that makes this paddle so desirable by many players of all skill levels.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I come from an extensive tennis background but suffered a shoulder injury while competing at Canadian Nationals August of 2016. I was rehabbing this injury for months without any relief or return to sport in sight. I was getting frustrated with the process as I had many big tournaments on the horizon that I had to withdraw from due to this injury. This was devastating for me as tennis was a huge part of my life. My dad recognized this and approached me about a sport called pickleball. Claiming it is “exciting, fun to play and much easier on the body.” I had reservations at first about playing a sport that had a hamburger garnish in its name. Ha ha! After 3 consecutive weeks of an invite  to play at my local recreation centre (which I declined), I finally decided to give in, take my dad up on the offer and join him. I was immediately hooked and left tennis behind January 2017. I still struggled with the shoulder issue but was able to play/compete while rehabbing. I earned a gold medal in my first tournament in March 2017 and now pickleball is one of my passions.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Hands down, outdoors! I always enjoy the challenges of navigating the wind, sun, etc. I also prefer playing with the Durafast 40 Pickleball. I am no stranger to playing indoor pickleball though, as I live in Vancouver and I’m pretty certain it rains more than half the year! Haha.

Steve Deakin Men's Doubles

Steve Deakin at 2018 USAPA Nationals

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I love doubles, as rallies can be very long. It combines the excitement of the fast exchanges along with the patience of the soft game. I really enjoy the thinking and strategies involved as well.  Even so, I do plan to start playing some singles next year.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I have two places that stand out. Number 1 is the Pitt Meadows Rec Centre near my home where I played pickleball for the first time. I will never forget the picklers there that taught me the rules of the game as there were quite a few. Number 2 is the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. I recently played USAPA Nationals there and the atmosphere was electric, the crowd support was large and the courts were pristine.

Steve Deakin action

Steve Deakin at the 2018 USAPA Nationals

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

My secret sauce is my hand speed and dinking consistency. Tips: Practice patience while dinking and learn to recognize the right time to speed up a point. I will hit as many dinks as I feel necessary to extract the right ball from my opponents to put away. Think before you dink. I strongly believe if you want to improve your game (no matter what skill level) drill those dinks and third shot drops!

What is your day job?

I work for my uncle’s business selling mineral exploration equipment to mining camps.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

This is a touchy subject and may want to plead the 5th on this one… haha. Just ask my wife Stacy who has become a pickleball widow. I would say I play 12 hours a week and she would say 20 hours. I am sure somewhere in the middle is the truth. I play 3-4 days a week depending on what tournaments are coming up and what time of year it is. I’ll usually play 3 days a week during winter months and 4 days a week during summer months when the weather is nice.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I am very ritualistic when it comes to tournament preparation and that came from my tennis background. However, I have lightened up just a bit on those rituals for pickleball. One funny thing I will typically not do during a tournament is sign the score sheet after a win. I am sure my partners scratch their head when I point to the referee and walk away.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

I would like to win Gold at the USAPA Nationals, the US Open and the Tournament Of Champions Event in the next 2 years.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

Pickleball has opened up so many amazing opportunities for me. It keeps me fit, healthy and has cultivated many new friendships. I love it and will continue to play for many years to come. A special thanks to the entire group at Selkirk who have treated me very well throughout my development as a competitive player. A very special thanks to my wife Stacy and family who have supported me with this new passion.

Meet The Pros – Katie Dyer

Meet the Pros – Katie Dyer

Katie Dyer Scheels Gold

2018 Scheels Capital Classic – Gold KaSandra Marie Gehrke/Katie Dyer, Silver LeEllen Lane and Erin Parriott, Bronze Camille Hughes-Strope and Stephanie Shouse Lane

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2018 USAPA Nationals, Women’s Doubles Age 35+ with Mary Helen Atkins– Gold
2018 USAPA Atlantic South Regional, Women’s Doubles with Sarah Parker – Gold
2018 Texas Open, Women’s Doubles Age with Kasandra Gehrke- Gold
Women’s Doubles Pro with Kasandra Gehrke – Bronze
2018 Scheels Capital City Classic, Women’s Doubles with Kasandra Gehrke – Gold
2018 Colorado Open, Women’s Doubles with Stephanie Lane – Gold
Mixed Doubles with Jesse Taylor – Silver
2018 Logan Stanley Memorial Classic, Women’s Doubles with Stephanie Lane – Gold
Mixed Doubles with Jesse Taylor – Silver
2018 Trussville Charity Classic, Mixed Doubles with Jesse Taylor – Gold
2018 Grand Canyon State Games, Women’s Doubles with Mary Helen Atkins – Silver
Mixed Doubles with Dave Glendenning – Bronze
2018 East Naples Winter Classic, Women’s Doubles with Joanne Russell – Silver
Mixed Doubles with Jesse Taylor – Gold
2017 USAPA Atlantic South Regional, Women’s Doubles 4.5 with Gretchen Ratchford – Gold
2017 Georgia Mountain Fall Classic, Women’s Doubles with Leanna Camper – Gold
2017 Pickleball Nashville Labor Day, Women’s Doubles 4.5 with Kristin Parvin, – Gold
Mixed Doubles 4.5/5.0 with Jesse Taylor – Silver
2017 Battle on Beech Mountain, Women’s Doubles 4.5/5.0 with Noa Geyne – Silver
Mixed Doubles 4.5/5.0 with Joshua Cook – Silver
2017 Atlanta Open, Women’s Doubles 4.5 with Noa Geyne – Gold
Mixed Doubles 4.5 with Joshua Cook – Gold

Katie Dyer action shot

Katie Dyer with her eye on the pickleball

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the Selkirk Amped Epic. The paddle gives me great touch at the kitchen line as well as power and control. The longer handle is perfect for my two handed backhand. I also prefer a very thin grip, which I believe gives me more feel and precision with my shots.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I played college softball and love playing practically any sport. Four designated pickleball courts were built in Collegedale, Tennessee, one mile from my house and another mile from my work. My friend, Chuck Daniels, encouraged me to try out the new sport, sending me weekly text messages with the entry-level wooden paddle link on Amazon. After four consecutive weeks of messages, I ordered the paddles and have been hooked ever since.

Katie Dyer Texas Open

Jeanne Stasny Follow · January 9 · Jeanne Stasney with Celeste Pafford, KaSandra Marie Gehrke, Katie Dyer and Lisa Naumu in Dallas, Texas.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I only play outdoors. After a long day of working indoors, I am always ready to get outside and play with friends.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I definitely prefer doubles. I enjoy the teamwork aspect that doubles brings to the table as well as the strategic part of the game.

Katie Dyer and Maryhelen Atkins

Katie Dyer and Maryhelen Atkins, Gold, 2018 USAPA Nationals at Indian Wells

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

My favorite place to play is Indian Wells, California at the 2018 USAPA Nationals. It was my first Nationals and winning a gold metal certainly was the highlight for me.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

My two-handed backhand is my signature shot. I love generating topspin, dropping in the kitchen or holding a misdirect shot until the last moment. I encourage players to play with many different types of pickleball players, whether bangers or dinkers. Play your game. Often times we find ourselves falling into our opponents’ style of play. Know what your strengths are and stick to them. Improve your weaknesses during drilling practice.

What is your day job?

I am a pharmacist at a specialty compounding pharmacy, Solutions Pharmacy, in Ooltewah, TN. We are licensed in 23 states and ship out all over the country. I meet patients all over the United States, and I am personally rewarded with the ability to affect a patient’s quality of life.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I play three to four hours approximately three to five days a week. I do not get off of work until 5pm or 6pm and am eager to get to the courts to exercise and enjoy quality time with friends.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I do not have any lucky rituals before a tournament. I do, however, focus on hydration and getting plenty of rest before the tournament. I practice diligently the week prior to the tournament on third shots, dinking, and quick hands drills.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

I would love to win an open pro event in women’s and mixed doubles.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

I would like to thank my family for their continued support and encouragement. I would also like to thank Selkirk Sports for their sponsorship in helping me spread the love of this amazing sport.

Meet the Pros – Matt Goebel

Meet the Pros – Matt Goebel

Matt Goebel

Matt Goebel

Matt played pickleball on his own home court as a kid. He also has quite the court advantage! Look at that reach! The competition must have a difficult time getting the ball past Matt.  Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2018 USA Pickleball Nationals 19+ Men’s Doubles Gold with Tyson McGuffin
2018 Tournament of Champions Men’s Doubles Pro Gold with Tyson McGuffin
2018 Triple Crown Men’s Doubles Silver with Joey Farias
2018 SoCal Summer Classic Men’s Doubles Open Bronze with Tyler Loong
2018 International Indoor Pickleball Championships Mixed Doubles Open Bronze with Miok Lee
2018 Brigham City Memorial Mixed Doubles Open Silver with Christine Barksdale
2018 US Open Men’s Doubles Pro Bronze with Tyson McGuffin
2017 Coeur d’Alene Classic Men’s Doubles Gold with Tyson McGuffin
2017 Canadian Nationals Men’s Doubles Open Silver with Tyson McGuffin
2017 International Indoor Pickleball Championships Men’s Doubles Open Silver with Tyson McGuffin
2017 Brigham City Memorial Men’s Doubles Pro Silver with Tyson McGuffin
2017 Grand Canyon State Games Men’s Doubles 19+ Bronze with Rob Davidson

Matt Goebel and Tyson McGuffin

Matt Goebel and Tyson McGuffin at 2018 Margaritaville USAPA Nationals

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the Selkirk AMPED Invikta. I really love Selkirk as a company and what they stand for and believe in, and they also make some great paddles. The Invikta is longer than the traditional paddle, but not as skinny as your regular elongated paddle. It gives you that extra reach that really enhances how you can strike the ball without shrinking the sweet spot or paddle face.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I grew up just outside of Seattle and actually had a pickleball court in my back yard when I was really young, so I was introduced to the sport early on. When we moved, I started playing tennis and left pickleball behind. Then, when I was playing tennis in college, my parents got invited to play at a rec center by some friends, sop I joined in and got hooked again. Whenever I came home for breaks we’d all go play pickleball. When I graduated, we played a tournament in Canada, and I haven’t really played tennis since.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

Nothing beats getting to play pickleball outdoors on a sunny day. Up here in Washington we don’t get the opportunity to play outdoors year round, so when I can get outside I take full advantage of it!

Matt Goebel, Tonja Major

Miok Lee with Kurtis Campbell, Matt Goebel, Tonja Major and Tyson McGuffin.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Definitely doubles. I love the strategy and the way you can set up a point in doubles. It requires you to work really well with your partner and have a lot of patience to wait for the right opportunity to attack.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I enjoy all of the tournaments Kyle Klein and Co. put on in Brigham City, UT. They have a beautiful facility with 16 courts plus a championship court that is tough to beat. But the real draw is the people and the hospitality. When I go to play there, I feel like a part of the family and enjoy every second of it.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

The number one thing that helps me compete with the best players is my aggressive forehand that puts my opponents on the defensive and allows to finish off points early. It’s really important for all players to find a style that works well for them. Figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are and find a way to highlight your strengths and hide your weaknesses. Not everyone can be great in all aspects of pickleball, but we can all play the game on our terms to best set ourselves up for success.

What is your day job?

I am a high school math teacher, which makes the summer months an ideal time to travel around and get to play with and against some of the best players in the country.

Miok Lee and Matt Goebel

Miok Lee and Matt Goebel – 2018 Intl Indoor Championship

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I typically play 2-5 hours a week, but try to ramp that up in the weeks leading up to a tournament. It’s hard to find time to play consistently during the school year, but my wife knows how much I enjoy playing, so we make sure to find some time each week and sometimes I even convince her to come drill with me.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Nothing special for tournaments. I just try to treat it like a normal day. Get a good nights sleep, get a hearty breakfast in, and make sure to get a good warm up. My wife and I did go to Hawaii for our honeymoon directly before Tyson and I won gold at Tournament Of Champions, so that might have to become the ritual in the future.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

Competitively, my goal is to win a gold medal in men’s doubles at the three major tournaments. I’m 1/3 of the way there, so we’re making progress. Outside of the competition, I want to continue to travel around and meet more wonderful people from all over the country and world, playing this glorious sport.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

The thing that makes this sport so exceptional is the accessibility and the social aspect. Anyone and everyone can pick up a paddle and play. I get to play against the best of the best, but I also get to go home and play with my wife, my siblings, my parents. It’s a sport that brings people together. Throughout my time playing, I’ve met some truly wonderful people that have made my life better, and I look forward to all of the new experiences and relationships that this sport will provide me in the future!

Meet The Pros – Michelle Esquivel

Meet the Pros – Michelle Esquivel

MIchelle Esquivel

MIchelle Esquivel at the 2018 Margaritaville USAPA National Championships – photo credit to ProPickleball

No doubt about it, Michelle Esquivel is a fierce competitor and dedicated instructor who is totally in love with pickleball. Enjoy! 

Can you list for us your major wins, so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2018 USAPA Margaritaville Nationals, Women’s Singles 5.0 19+ – Gold
2018 Tustin Winter Classic, Women’s 5.0 Doubles with Lisa Naumu – Gold
+ Mixed 5.0 Doubles with Jeff Warnick – Gold
2018 International Indoor Championships, Mixed Open Doubles with David Wage – Silver
+ Women’s Doubles Open with Lindsey Newman – Gold
2018 SoCal Classic, Women’s Doubles Open with Gee Gee Garvin – Gold
2018 Engage Golden State Championships, Women’s Doubles Open with Lindsey Newman – Silver
+2018 Mixed Open Bronze with Jeff Warnick
2018 Las Vegas Open, Women’s Doubles Open with Gee Gee Garvin – Bronze
2018 Western Regional, Women’s Doubles 5.0, 19+ with Kris Anderson – Gold
+ Mixed Doubles 5.0 19+ with Jeff Warnick  –  Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

I love playing with the Engage Poach Advantage! It has the perfect combination of control and power I need for my game.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

While coaching tennis at Orange Coast College in 2015, my fellow colleague text me and invited me to play pickleball over at the courts in Tustin, CA. That was the first time I had ever heard of the sport and I even laughed and asked, “What the heck is pickleball?” Just like most, I was instantly hooked and addicted to the sport. I remember playing my first tournament at the 2016 SoCal Classic in Oceanside, CA, where I fell in love with competing. I knew I wanted to take my game to the next level after last year’s USAPA Nationals. Since then, I’ve been able to show some great results and compete against the top players in the game. It’s been such a blast so far.

What is your preference: playing indoors or outdoors?

I love playing pickleball both indoors and outdoors, but if I had a preference I would rather play outdoors. I come from a Southern California tennis background and love being outdoors as much possible. If not, playing indoors is just as great.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I definitely enjoy playing doubles more but love the physical & mental challenge of singles.

Michelle Esquivel Mixed Doubles

Michelle Esquivel and Rob Cassidy in Mixed Doubles at 2018 USAPA Nationals

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

I really loved playing at Nationals this year at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. I grew up watching the tennis pros play at the same venue during the PNB Paribas Open and never thought I’d be competing there for pickleball. It’s an amazing facility for both spectators and players. It was so much fun playing for the fans.

What is your secret sauce?

My tennis background really helps, especially with my footwork and positioning for doubles.

Takako Tourangeau, Lee Whitwell, Michelle Esquivel, Tracie DeJager, Bonnie Williams and Lindsey Newman

Takako Tourangeau, Lee Whitwell, Michelle Esquivel, Tracie DeJager, Bonnie Williams and Lindsey Newman

Any tips for players?

Work on your weaknesses! I personally love driving the ball and hitting hard, so I tend to focus and work on third shot drops and dinks as much as possible. In rec games, I’ll intentionally play balls I would usually feel uncomfortable hitting, so they become easier in tournaments. I also recommend challenging the stronger player on the court during practice games. I know winning is fun, but you’ll only get better by getting out of your comfort zone.

What is your day job?

I just changed career paths from being a tennis coach to teaching pickleball! I was just hired as a teaching pro at the Pickleball Zone Bend in Central Oregon. The brand-new indoor facility just opened a week ago right before Nationals. I’ll be teaching clinics, lessons and setting up events with Lisa Palcic who is the Head Director of the Oregon Pickleball Academy.

Lisa Palcic and Michelle Esquivel

The Oregon Pickleball Academy-Pickleball Zone Bend, with Lisa Palcic and Michelle Esquivel

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

If there’s an opportunity to play, I’ll always take it. I’m at a point where I can’t get enough pickleball. I make it a top priority to routinely drill and set up games whenever I can. I try to get in 12-15 hours of games per week.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I don’t have any luckily rituals before a big tournament, but I prepare myself as much as I can by getting enough rest, making sure I hydrate and stretch.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

I’ve accomplished one of my top goals by medaling at Nationals this year. I’m working hard to earn a place on the podium at the US Open and Tournament of Champions for next year.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?
Pickleball has surprisingly changed my life in such a positive light. I never thought I’d be so passionate about it. I love teaching it, competing and being a part of its unique community. I admire and respect all the ambassadors, volunteers, tournament directors and people who’ve made the sport what’s it’s become today. I also appreciate all the fans and pickleball addicts who just can’t get enough. We can all relate! Without all of you, it wouldn’t be the same, so a sincere THANK YOU